[VoxSpace Selects] The Indian Cinema Report Card 2017 : A Celebration Of Pure Story Telling

Cinema – The Evolution Of Intellect Starts To Reflect

India produces the largest number of movies than any other country out there and now that we are almost at the end of the year, it is a good time to talk about the movies, which were on the screen this year. You see this year; the movies were a complete mixed bag of surprises. The so-called commercial movies failed to garner any momentum at the box office, barring a few. It almost felt at one point that the so-called 500-crore-club won’t get to see any new members inducted into its establishment. No matter the number of jazzy promotions, skimpy clad dance numbers and artificially created hype that the filmmakers tried to create, the formula simply didn’t work this year. So what worked this year? Surprisingly, low on budget but high on content movies did.

I won’t go far as to say that the Indian mentality has entirely shifted from masala movies and mindless dancing, however, with a strong influx of digital content, it’s very difficult to retain the audience in the cinema halls unless one has something unique to offer. The audience has matured a lot.

After all, spending 500 bucks to catch a Friday opening in the movie halls and not getting your money’s worth doesn’t sound like a good deal. That same 500 bucks would give one a month’s access to any streaming service, where he/she can choose from a multitude of titles. By the end of the month, the user would also be able to watch the movie as well, as new movies are available in these streaming services after 10-20 days from their release dates.

The Poignancy Of Story Telling…

The year started with Haraamkhor directed by Shlok Sharma, who has honed his skills as an assistant director under Gangs of Wasseypur director Anurag Kashyap. Although the movie didn’t do wonders at the box-office, the audience, as well as the critics, took note of the movie that had Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Shweta Tripathi of Masaan fame, as the main protagonists. Another thing that one should point out that this movie faced stiff objection from the censor board, a hangover which still remains from the Nihalani days. This was a fantastic start to the year and should have served as an indication to the pundits that this year was going to be all about the cinemas that have been dubbed “experimental,” “alternative” or “parallel” by several insiders.

Next up was Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani’s Hindi version OK Jaanu. Directed by Shaad Ali, the 2015 story with Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen in the lead failed to bring the audience to the theatres when placed on the shoulders of Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor.

Then came two noteworthy entries – Kaabil helmed by Hrithik Roshan, and Raees, helmed by Shah Rukh Khan. Both of them did brisk business and managed to bring home the moolah. This was also needed for the two leading actors as their last major attempts to carry the movie on their own shoulders; Mohenjo Daro and Fan, respectively, were both commercial and critical duds.

The Definitive Kumar Factor Enters…

Akshay Kumar took over from Arshad Warsi to play the titular role in Jolly LLB 2. The precursor to this movie had been a sleeper hit in 2013 and in 2017, the formula backed by Akshay “Bharat” Kumar, had a decent run at the box office. The movie made Rs. 197.33 crore worldwide, earning well and above its Rs. 45 crore budget.

The next big disappointment came in the form of Rangoon, which was directed by Vishal Bhardwaj and the movie, starring Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Kangana Ranaut, was expected to translate into one of the biggest hits of the year. However, a poor script, flimsy acting and an overall weak plot took the movie for a nosedive. It gathered a rather whimpering Rs. 32.54 crore worldwide after being made at a reported cost of Rs. 80 crore.

Govinda tried to make a comeback with the movie Aa Gaya Hero, which sank into oblivion along with Machine, a movie that had the debutant Mustafa Burmawalla, the son of Abbas Burmawalla of the famous Abbas-Mastan duo.

Meanwhile, Rajkummar Rao made his first appearance of the year in Trapped directed by Vikramaditya Motwane. The movie was critically acclaimed and Rao’s brilliance, which became a major highlight of this year, shone throughout the movie.

The Women Helm A Revolution…

After that, it was the turn of Phillauri, produced and acted by Anushka Sharma, which had Diljit Dosanjh, who shone in last year’s Udta Punjab, and Suraj Sharma, who played the protagonist in Life of Pi. The movie just managed to recover its losses and make some small change on the side.

Two notable films here are Anaarkali of Aarah, which had the fabulous Swara Bhaskar backed by Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi, and Naam Shabana that had Taapsee Pannu. Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi are two names that have come to the forefront this year and marked how the industry is finally giving its due credit to the character actors.

After that, movies failed back to back, which were buzzed to be moderate hits if not a complete failure. These were Meri Pyaari Bindu, Sarkar 3 and Half Girlfriend. The less we say about these three, I think the better it will be for humanity.

The Return Of Content And Satirical Takes…

Bollywood received some of its sanity back with Hindi Medium, a movie that had the right blend of social humour and relevance. The movie connected with the audience making it a substantially successful movie.

A Death in the Gunj, Konkona Sen Sharma’s directorial debut, managed to hit all the right cords and surprisingly, in the mix of hugely talented actors, like Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Tillotama Shome, Gulshan Devaiah, Tanuja, Om Puri and Jim Sarbh, it was Vikrant Massey who stole the show.

The industry again went into a lull with three disasters namely Raabta, Tubelight and Jagga Jasoos. These were three varied movies banking on three very different names to do the heavy lifting but the audience decided that they would have nothing to do with big budget movies that parade without any substance and, therefore, gave them a miss.

The Lipstick Which Marked A Change…

A pattern was clear from the emerging movies, such as Lipstick Under My Burkha, Gurgaon, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, Bareilly Ki Barfi. They all had moderate openings and later gained traction, whereas, movies such as Munna Michael, Mubarakan and Jab Harry Met Sejal, despite having a big budget and star cast, just whimpered and died in the box office.

Movies that did work well this year include Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which that had a social welfare aspect to it, a theme that is being banked heavily on by Khiladi Kumar. Shubh Mangal Savdhan also did fine. It was a movie that talks about erectile dysfunction in a humorous way.

No one can remember or cares about movies with big names and wafer-thin plots that came and went away in the middle, such as Baadshaho, Lucknow Central, Simran and Haseena Parkar. Even Sanjay Dutt’s comeback movie Bhoomi and Arjun Rampal’s ambitious biopic on Arun Gawli or Daddy didn’t get much leverage in the box office.

The Stupidity To Wrap Things Up Except For A Few Sparkles…

However, the year ended with both commercial and alternative cinema getting their respective wins. Commercial cinema managed to save face with Judwaa 2, Golmaal again, Tiger Zinda Hai. Rajkummar Rao, who has now almost become the poster boy of India’s so-called alternative cinema, ended the year on the ultimate high note with Newton, which, along with being an amazing movie experience, became India’s entry to the Oscars as well.

So where do we stand at the end of the day? Well, saving the best for the last. The highlight of the year was Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. Just like its predecessor, it took the industry by storm and whipped up a lesson that it’ll never forget. S. S. Rajamouli’s bilingual fantasy-action adventure, made out of Tollywood and based out of Hyderabad, showed the Indian movie industry and especially Bollywood that epic story-telling was not limited just to the studios in Mumbai.

Now, the war between commercial, alternative, big budget and small budget will always remain. However, if for anything this year will be remembered in retrospect in the cine history, it will be for this movie definitely.